An original idea to offer books to young readers in Northland a success

An innovative idea to provide more books to new Northland readers proves to be a resounding success.

The Whangārei Hidden Books initiative is pretty much what it sounds like – children’s books are hidden in spots across the city for budding bookworms to discover.

Thousands of stories have been collected over the past two years, all thanks to Heather Edmeades.

Heather Edmeades delivers books to playgrounds for young Northlanders to find and read.
Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake-Persen

Edmeades started distributing the books about two years ago after seeing a friend in Taranaki do the same.

She estimates that she hid around 2,000 books during this time – picture books and chapter books – some by local authors, some from Aotearoa and classic international reads.

The books are scavenged from thrift stores, and Heather checks them for good condition (not too much scribbling), before packing them in resealable plastic bags with a note.

It reads: “Free in a good home – congratulations on finding me. Please read and rehide. Tell us on the Whangārei Hidden Books page on Facebook where you found it or where you hid books. Good reading!’

On Wednesday, she stowed about 15 pounds in slides, swings and seats at a playground in Whangārei.

A book in a Whangārei playground for a young Northland reader to find.

A book in a Whangārei playground for a young Northland reader to find.
Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake-Persen

Weaving between equipment, she said she tries to be discreet when hiding them so that the children have a nice surprise when they find them.

The bright, colorful books – some Dr. Seuss and Spike Milligan alongside Northland authors – were snapped up by young readers.

Eight-year-old Alexis was at the park with her girlfriend Donna Housham when they discovered ‘Green Eggs and Ham’.

Donna with her grandchildren who found something to read at a playground in Whangārei.

Donna with her grandchildren who found something to read at a playground in Whangārei.
Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake-Persen

Donna said it was a classic that she planned to read to the grandkids as soon as possible.

“This book is a legend.”

Donna noted that books are not cheap and good page turners can be hard to come by. She therefore welcomed the project.

“It’s a good thing and it gives children the opportunity to read books, to read different books, not the same books over and over again.”

Heather Edmeades said she’s had great comments about the books over the years, including one woman who said the book she discovered was the first her baby had ever had.

A book in a Whangārei playground for a young Northland reader to find.

A book in a Whangārei playground for a young Northland reader to find.
Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake-Persen

She has since been contacted by another ‘Hidden Books’ organizer in Kāpiti, who set up the program there.

“I like to think that this hopefully fosters a bit of reading in the community. And a love of books.”

For anyone who wants inspiration from Heather’s book, feel free to check out the Hidden Books of Whangārei The Facebook page.

Irene B. Bowles